Iconic products released the year you were born
America's product-loving culture has thrived on amazing ingenuities and inventions over the last century. Over several generations, we've seen kitchen appliances cut meal prep time and the creation of programmable toys that interact with their human owners. From powdered drink mixes to color film, what better way to illustrate these innovations than a trip down memory lane of some of the most iconic products of our time?
Classic toys like Barbie and the Easy-Bake Oven speak to multiple generations, while others such as Atari and Furbies were short-lived but remain generational touchstones. Some products even become shorthand for moments in time: America's obsession with Beanie Babies, for example, often conjures up parallels to the dot-com bubble.
Whether a product signifies convenience or obsession, many were not only jumping-off points for later inventions and improvements but also earmarks of their cultural eras. When Spandex and Lycra hit the market in 1959, they replaced previous fabrics less suitable for heat, sweat, and water. But the shift to Lycra swimsuits, for instance, also marked a turning point in women’s fashion norms and the increasing acceptability of displaying the female body in athletics and leisure. The link to today’s yoga pants and “athleisure” generation is undeniable.
Perhaps the two most common trends you’ll find as you browse this list: convenience and compactness. Introduced in 1953, Eggo frozen waffles sped up breakfast time. In 1969, Sony’s Walkman hit stores and made home listening handheld. The perfect representation of both efficiency and size? The 1994 birth of the Foreman Grill.
Stacker compiled the most iconic products released each year over the last 100 years. We're not saying wisdom can be gleaned from these choices like some sort of consumer horoscope, but at the very least this list can show how much technology and style has changed in the blink of an eye. Just think—this year's class of senior citizens (ages 65 and older) were born the same year as the invention of Tylenol; on the flip side, this year's high school seniors were born the same year as the Roomba.
Click through to see the iconic products released the year you were born, from 1919 to 2019.
You may also like: Where U.S. first ladies went to college
Legend has it that the Band-Aid was created by a Johnson & Johnson employee for his wife, who was prone to suffering nicks in the kitchen. Rather than wait to return and dress the wounds at night, Earle Dickson invented the Band-Aid so his wife could attend to her own wounds throughout the day. The product became such a success that it's now become the standard name for most adhesive bandages.
1921: Wonder Bread
Wonder Bread was first baked at Taggart Baking Company in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1921. But it wasn't until 1930, a few years after Continental Baking bought the brand, that they first began to sell it as sliced bread. That ingenious tweak, some believe, birthed the saying, “the best thing since sliced bread.”
1922: The blender
Steven J. Poplawski created and patented the drink mixer (the granddaddy of the blender) in 1922 and sold it to drug stores and soda fountains to make malted milkshakes. In 1946, Poplawski's Stevens Electric Company was bought by Oster Manufacturing Products, who still make blenders to this day.
1923: Crystal Hot Sauce
Louisiana's iconic hot sauce was born in New Orleans. The recipe was included in the purchase of a sno-ball syrup company by Alvin Baumer, but quickly it became clear that the cayenne-based hot sauce was the real star acquisition for Baumer Foods. Almost 100 years later, it's still a staple through the South and beyond.
You may also like: Most popular dog breed the year you were born
First sold in 1924 as a cold cream and makeup remover, the paper company Kimberly Clark in 1930 began marketing the product as a disposable handkerchief. Today, the paper is so ubiquitous that many people simply refer to all facial tissues as Kleenex.
1925: Cervecería Modelo
Mexico's biggest beer company was born in Mexico City in 1925. Three years later, Cervecería Modelo was already selling 8 million bottles of Modelo and Corona a year. The company today—now known as Grupo Modelo—produces almost every well-known Mexican beer, including Corona, Modelo, Victoria, and Pacifico.
1926: Raisin Bran
First created and sold by the Skinner Manufacturing Company in 1926, raisin bran would eventually become a staple ingredient of Kellogg's cereals. In 1944, Skinner, which owned the trademark on raisin bran, sued Kellogg's, claiming the company's marketing of its similarly named cereal was against the law. Kellogg's eventually won because the court ruled one could not trademark a name “which is merely descriptive of the ingredients.”
Kool-Aid was dreamed up by an enterprising young Nebraskan named Edwin Perkins, who managed to dehydrate a concentrated fruit soft drink back into its sugary powder form. He called his new concoction Kool-Aid, and the rest is history.
1928: Chef Boyardee
The canned pasta company was actually created by a well-respected, Cleveland-based Italian chef, Ettore Boiardi. He began selling prepackaged versions of his beloved spaghetti dinners in 1928 and quickly changed the name on the package to Boyardee so American consumers could phonetically pronounce his surname. Today, Boiardi's image is still featured on his product's cans.
You may also like: Major cities most at risk of rising sea levels
Charles L. Grigg spent two years perfecting his lemon-lime soda before eventually releasing it in 1929, two weeks before the Great Depression began. Grigg's soda was initially sold as Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda, but eventually was shortened to the snappier 7-Up. Until 1950, 7-Up was made with lithium, a salt sometimes prescribed to treat bipolar disorder and depression.